None of this would’ve happened if I wasn’t such a gosh-darn thoughtful guy.
See, the week before Thanksgiving was purely no fun for Lance: he worked several long days all in an effort to be able to take off Black Friday without using a vacation day, those being particularly scarce ever since our trip to Japan.
When Lance works a long day, he makes it known. Like, you can’t have a conversation with him that doesn’t begin and end with “OMG ME SLEEPY!!!” or “I worked a 14-hour day, so I shouldn’t be expected to put my dirty ice cream bowls in the dishwasher.”
Usually in these cases, I think to myself, “Oh please, stop being such a baby.” This time, however, I tried to remind myself that part of the reason Lance was doing all this was so that we’d be able to go to my parents’ house in Michigan (which is a not insignificant distance from southeastern Pennsylvania) for Thanksgiving. So, I happily sucked it up and scrubbed all the congealed globs of Snickers ice cream out of the bowls in the kitchen sink. ALL WITH A SMILE ON MY FACE.
On the Friday of said week, we (read: I, with an extra ticket for Lance) planned on going to see the Hush Sound at the TLA in Philadelphia; they hadn’t performed together in years and I loved that band in college. Well, given that the tickets were only $15 a piece and since, you know, my lil’ guy was having such a rough week at work, I decided to just skip this concert and not force Lance into going. He needed the opportunity to wind down and relax, not spend a whole night in the city, right?
To celebrate the more official beginning of the holiday season (let’s just pretend that Macy’s didn’t have their Christmas decorations up in late September), and since we’re ol’ Scrooges this year in need of more holiday spirit, Lance and I will be sending out the First Annual Lance + Jeff Christmas (or Holiday of Your Preference) Card!
That’s right! We’re gonna create customized, handcrafted, unique (and other artisan buzz-worthy words) holiday cards to celebrate the season the way it was meant to be celebrated: with cheap, “homemade” crafts covered in second-rate doodles.
If you would like us to create a personalized, one-of-a-kind holiday card for ya, please send a mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, December 14 and we’ll get one out to you post haste!
Don’t worry: we don’t have the energy or resources to spam your real-life mailbox. We’re too busy for that kinda nonsense.
The day after our visit to DisneySea, we’d planned on taking the “bullet train” (actually called the shinkansen) from Tokyo to Kyoto, Japan’s former capital and anagram of “Tokyo.” We were only going to spend about 24 hours in Kyoto, per the original plan, and I wanted to make those hours count, mostly because the shinkansen tickets were hyperventilating-ly expensive: around $250 roundtrip, per person…and that was with a discount through Japanican.com! I fretted for awhile over whether we should spend that kind of money at all for such a short period, but when planning this trip, we were both operating under the understandable assumption that we’d never have the opportunity/resources to come back to Japan, so we figured we might as well do what we wanted.
It was around this point, though, some 60% or so of our vacation over, that I couldn’t ask either Lance or myself to keep pushing ourselves, dragging our luggage all over Japan, sticking to a rigid plan and feeling exhausted from lack of sleep and an overly ambitious itinerary.
See, I originally hoped to be out of the hotel and on the shinkansen to Kyoto by 8:00 or 9:00AM, but Lance took a late check-out opportunity as a sign that maybe we should just spend the morning relaxing and trying to catch up on some sleep. I begrudgingly agreed–not that I wasn’t agitated about taking things slow, but I knew in my heart of hearts that if we kept pushing ourselves, one of us was going to break.
As part of my membership level with Hilton HHonors, we were comped breakfast, and their buffet spread was enormous: your normal Western dishes, like oatmeal, eggs, bacon, and Japanese fare, and then…spaghetti. Can somebody tell me which culture eats spaghetti for breakfast so I can thank them?
Around 11:00, we finally left the hotel. Though I try to keep my tricket-y junk purchasing to a minimum these days, I was feeling a little light on souvenirs from Tokyo Disney, only having purchased the 10th Anniversary DisneySea book, so we stopped by Bon Voyage, the big Disney store near the main rail line in and our of the resort area, to see if I could find anything else:
I eventually purchased a little Chandu, the tiger cub in the bejeweled turban from Sinbad’s Storybook Voyages, and a lenticular postcard which I spent about $4.50 and have subsequently lost track of. Ah, souvenirs!
Okay, folks, Part III of our Japan trip report awaits below! Still a lazy bum and haven’t caught up on Parts I and II? Check ’em out now before venturing on…to the photo dump…err, I mean, “Tokyo Disney Trip Report!”
[Side note: I am in tremendous debt to Carrie from Disney Travel Babble, whose 2010 Tokyo Disney trip report was a huge inspiration (and blueprint!) for our Tokyo Disney…and Japan in general!…trip. Thanks, Carrie!]
Here’s a little bit of Lance+Jeff trivia for you all out there: Tokyo Disney was the first thing we ever decided to do during our initial Tokyo planning discussions waaaaay back last winter. In fact, we’d actually planned on going to Tokyo Disney long before the opportunity presented itself for us to go to Walt Disney World this past summer.
I’m sure plenty of you are asking (as I have myself, many times): why fly halfway around the world to go to a Disney park? (Because I wanted to, you dumb jerks! Don’t judge me! ::runs away to cry in a corner::)
Actually, there are good answers and there are bad answers to that question, and it really depends on what sort of traveller you are. I’d like to think that I enjoy experiencing local culture, but I also love Disney. I guess that’s the bad answer, since Disney isn’t Japanese, so therefore not local culture.
However, I would push back a little bit on the idea that Tokyo Disney is not Japanese. First of all, for those in the know, Tokyo Disney is not owned or operated by the Disney corporation as we know it. Instead, while it’s designed by Imagineers, the park is actually owned by the Oriental Land Company, which licenses the rights to Disney likenesses from the Disney corporation. So, there’s a technical reason why the park is Japanese.
[The Oriental Land Company also spends what seems to be a bajillion dollars in elaborate theming, rides, and shows, so you could argue that the park is also more “Disney” than Disney-owned parks, since they are more likely to match in cash what the Imagineers dream up. They apparently spent $4 billion on Tokyo DisneySea, Tokyo Disneyland’s neighboring park, before opening day.]
There’s also an emotional reason why this park is Japanese: I know I’m generalizing, but many, many Japanese people are crazy about Disney. The photos below don’t accurately capture just how into the experience our fellow park guests were. Now, I know it was right around Halloween when we visited, but so many people were wearing costumes, Disney hats, Disney sweatshirts, Disney changepurses and backpacks and carrying around Duffys in different costumes…there is a passion for Disney, especially in the teen/twenties set that you just don’t see in the same volume at the American parks.
Lastly, I wanted to visit Tokyo Disney for one specific reason: Tokyo DisneySea. This is the only Disney park that you can’t find some version of in the United States (thanks a lot, Santa Monica!) Ever since I stumbled upon its Wikipedia page years ago, I’ve been drawn to this park, a watery mix of Epcot’s World Showcase with the fantasy of the Magic Kingdom.
I didn’t and still don’t care that we spent, like, 20 percent of our trip at Tokyo Disney. I loved it.
I read that lines in the morning at the Tokyo parks get really bad, so I changed around our hotels at the last minute so we could stay in an “official” Disney hotel the night before we went to DisneySea instead of taking the subway 30+ minutes from a Tokyo hotel
Well, now that we’re going to be in the resort area that night anyway, why not spend the $40 to spend four hours at Tokyo Disneyland? I hadn’t originally planned on visiting Disneyland at all, but this afforded us the opportunity to at least see a little bit of that park, too!
Above: me, introducing the escalator from Disneyland Station down to the park.
I’m ridiculously happy that we were able to visit during the Halloween season when everything was decked out for the holiday. Above: scary coach which looks to have repurposed the horses from Cinderella.
Didn’t read Part I of our trip report? You should be embarrassed! Go read it right now before all your friends point and laugh at you.
I will admit that my first impression of Tokyo-Narita Airport was not favorable. Where was the futuristic Blade Runner design everybody was telling me Tokyo had in abundance? Narita was gray and plain–did we just fly halfway around the world for a carbon copy of Philadelphia International Airport??
Thankfully, once you get past customs, you truly enter the Japan of your dreams: efficient and multiple modes of public transportation connect the airport to Tokyo, there’s new and exotic candy at the airport shop, and most importantly of all, seemingly crazy and elaborate vending machines!
I love how nearly all of the drink vending machines actually have these displays in the door so you know exactly what you’re getting. I’m not sure if it’s really that big of a deal and is kind of a space-killer compared to American vending machines, but having the actual product showcased to us consumer whores is somehow very appealing.
Above, Lance enjoys the peach tea concoction for which we never learned the actual name. We instead referred to it by its slogan: HAPPY UP!
…We then proceeded to spend the next seven days checking every vending machine we stumbled across (and man, there are a ton. Seriously, vending machines just in the middle of city blocks, on every train platform and inside every home!) for Happy Up! (more…)
It begins here, folks…our super-sized report of our trip to Japan!
Why Japan? Well, it sort of became a question of, “Why not Japan?” I had spent two years amassing enough frequent flier miles to get Lance and I to Europe for free-ish (those pesky fuel surcharges’ll get you every time!), but suddenly we were significant over the amount we needed, and within striking distance of enough miles for two roundtrip tickets to Japan. We scrambled to liquidate our hotel points programs to transfer those points into miles so we’d have enough. Finally, right after Christmas 2011, we were able to book our two round-trip tickets to Japan for the hefty price of…like $180 total (taxes be damned!).
Of course, this gave us PLENTY of time to plan. Or, more accurately, it gave me plenty of time to plan. I researched hotels and transportation, did language audio lessons, booked tours and classes, etc., etc., and then rearranged everything a dozen or so times. Lance admitted a few days before the vacation, “Wow. I have no idea what we’re doing on this trip.” All the while I’m panicking trying to keep everything straight in my trusty day-by-day planner/binder full of confirmation e-mails, train passes and so forth.
Finally, the big day came: October 20, 2012! We drove to the airport bright and early that morning:
Since we had a frequent flier mile award ticket, the routing from Philadelphia to Tokyo was not fantastic, and meant that we had to stay overnight in Chicago before connecting on to Japan.
Problem? NO! We both love Chicago. It is my super-favoritest place in the United States. I so badly want to live there it’s not even funny, so when we had the chance to actually get a “free” day in the city, I did not complain. (more…)